Belfast Telegraph

Dilapidated city street gets facelift for starring role in Giro

By Rebecca Black

A row of derelict buildings along the route that one of the world's grandest cycle races will take in May is set for a facelift.

Cromac Street in Belfast was once home to a string of neighbourhood shops but over the years the beautiful red brick buildings at numbers 115-125 have become eyesores.

There's just 49 days to go until the world-famous race arrives in Belfast on May 9 for the 'Grande Partenza' – or 'Big Start' – which will see 200 of the world's best riders from over 30 countries converge here.

Cromac Street, which will form part of the route being seen by a potential audience of 800 million, is now to receive a spruce-up.

Chairman of Belfast City Council's health and environmental services committee Steven Corr said that as well as improving the appearance of the city, the work will leave a legacy for people to enjoy.

"We are working to make the route as nice as possible," the Sinn Fein man told the Belfast Telegraph.

"It's mostly cosmetic work, but it also helps local communities because if you want to open a shop, you will be put off by a derelict building next door, whereas if frontages are more welcoming, businesses are more likely to invest."

The Cromac Street block is just one of 1,500 properties across Belfast which have been found to be in a ruinous state.

Even Royal Avenue, once Belfast's grandest thoroughfare, contains crumbling buildings.

The health and environmental services committee of the council heard that since the economic downtown in 2007 the problem of derelict, dilapidated and ruinous properties in the city has increased dramatically.

The committee also heard that these sites have led to an increase in anti-social behaviour, fly-tipping and vermin.

A survey of 4,000 streets by the council found 250 properties required action.

Belfast City Council requested £560,000 of funding from the Department of the Environment to tackle the problem, however was granted just £220,000.

The properties set to benefit include 55-59 Royal Avenue; 13-15, 17-23, 29-31, 33-35 and 56-60 North Street; 16-18, 26-30 Donegall Street; 2-14 Lower Garfield Street, and 17 Donegall Road.

BACKGROUND

The Giro d'Italia is a long-distance road bike race held for professional cyclists annually over a three-week period in May and June.

This year will mark the first time it comes to Northern Ireland and the route will take in part of the province from Friday, May 9 in Belfast, before taking in north Antrim on Saturday, May 10 and going on to Armagh and Dublin on Sunday, May 11.

It is viewed around the world by a potential audience of 800 million, and 12.5m people attended the Giro in 2011.

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